Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 4674
Title: Soil bioretention protects juvenile salmon and their prey from the toxic impacts of urban stormwater runoff
Author: J. K. McIntyre, J. W. Davis, R. C. Edmunds, J. P. Incardona, N. L. Scholz, John Stark
Publication Year: 2015
Journal: Chemosphere
Volume: 132
Pages: 213-219
DOI: doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.12.052
Keywords: Stormwater runoff,low impact development,monitoring,toxic runoff,best practices,ecological management

 Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI), or low impact development, encompasses a diverse and expanding portfolio of strategies to reduce the impacts of stormwater runoff on natural systems.  Benchmarks for GSI success are usually framed in terms of hydrology and water chemistry, with reduced flow and loadings of toxic chemical contaminants as primary metrics.  Despite the central goal of protecting aquatic species abundance and diversity, the effectiveness of GSI treatments in maintaining diverse assemblages of sensitive aquatic taxa has not been widely evaluated.  In the present study we characterized the baseline toxicity of untreated urban runoff from a highway in Seattle, WA, across six storm events. For all storms, first flush runoff was toxic to the daphnid Ceriodaphnia dubia,, causing up to 100% mortality or impairing reproduction among survivors.  We then evaluated whether soil bioretention, a conventional GSI method, could reduce or eliminate toxicity to juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) as well as their macroinvertebrate prey, including cultured C. dubia and wild-collected mayfly nymphs (Baetis spp.).  Untreated highway runoff was generally lethal to salmon and invertebrates, and this acute mortality was eliminated when the runoff was filtered through soil bioretention columns.  Soil treatment also protected against sublethal reproductive toxicity in C. dubia).  Thus, a relatively inexpensive GSI technology can be highly effective at reversing the acutely lethal and sublethal effects of urban runoff on multiple aquatic species.